A Lower Calorie Pistachio For Your Snack Consumption

August 9, 2011   15 Comments

Nuts are a great snack and Snack Girl advocates for them everyday. Light to carry, packed with nutrients, and satisfying, pistachios are a perfect snack.

Low Calorie Pistachio

EXCEPT, they are small in size and full of calories which is why dieters tend to avoid pistachios or other nuts. Here is the current nutritional information on pistachios:

30 pistachios = 100 calories, 7.6 g fat, 0.9 g saturated fat, 4.8 g carbohydrates, 1.3 g sugar, 3.5 g protein, 1.8 g fiber, 0 mg sodium, 3 Points+

Yes, for 30 pistachios (in-shelled or shelled), you get a bunch of important nutrients and healthy fat for quality calories. But how many calories?

David Baer, Ph.D. research leader at the Food Components and Health Laboratory at the USDA decided to study whether the calories IN the pistachio makes it OUT into our body. How did he do that?

He fed a study group of humans pistachios and then checked their (you guessed it!) feces to see how much of the pistachio was essentially left over (did not make it into the blood stream).

Snack Girl: Why did you study pistachios?

David Baer, PHD: Pistachios are an interesting nut – rich in phytonutrients and relatively low in energy compared to other nuts.

Snack Girl: Let's say you have a 100 calorie Twinkie and 100 calories of pistachios - are we digesting all 100 calories into our blood systems from both of these foods?

David Baer, PHD: Before our research was completed, a label on a package of pistachios stating 100 kcal probably only had 95 kcal. The Twinkie would have 100 kcal.

Snack Girl: Why would we be unable to glean all of the calories out of pistachios as opposed to ice cream (for example)?

David Baer, PHD: Pistachios are a plant food. As such, they have cell walls surrounding their cells. Cell walls are made of fiber.

We cannot digest fiber with our mammalian enzymes – rather, microbes can ferment it in our large intestines. Here is what we think is happening: the fat from pistachios is trapped inside the cell walls and can only be released by physically breaking the cell wall (i.e., by chewing) or by fermenting the cell wall in the large intestine. Fat released by fermentation in the large intestine is not available for absorption (because fat absorption takes place further up in the intestine) so this fat is excreted. Probably the more you chew, and physically break the cell wall, the more the fat becomes available.

Snack Girl: Would you recommend pistachios as a healthy snack?

David Baer, PHD: Absolutely! They are a good source of several key nutrients.

Snack Girl: What is your favorite snack?

David Baer, PHD: Pistachios, of course! (I do like all sorts of nuts.)

Thanks, David! Basically, all pistachios have 5% fewer calories than previously thought.

These "cell walls" are great for filling us up and not out. This is a great reason to grab those pistachios (or any plant food) instead of that Twinkie.

Do you eat pistachios?

1. U.S. Department of Agriculture. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 26.

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So, am I reading that the more you chew something, the more fat you absorb from it?

Really? To me, that sounds a little...gimmicky.

I eat pistachios almost daily. My co-worker and I look forward to our afternoon "pistachio break." I love them for their nutrients and their deliciousness, and honestly a 120 cal mid-afternoon snack(I usually count out exactly 20 pistachios for myself) is just enough to get me through the rest of the work day!

Oh man I love them,,, unfortunately they do not love me back!! ho-hummmmmmmmmm

I love pistachios! I always go for the ones still in their shells, because the effort takes to pry each one open helps me stop from shoveling handfuls into my mouth at a time.

Thanks for letting us know how fiber works. To the pistachios!

i'm sort of shocked by what was said about chewing :O various diet plans and sites mentioned to chew your food 20 times before swallowing so that you're not scarfing down food, but if what he said is true, chewing it 20 times means you're actually going to be absorbing more of the food than scarfing it down?

of course chewing would help if you're the type to scarf down what's on your plate then order more because your stomach hasn't caught up with your brain yet. but if you ONLY get one plate, wouldn't this mean that scarfing it down is better than chewing?

how interesting...and i have no clue how to take this new information haha

Our whole family, especially my 3-year-old, LOVES pistachios. He calls them 'cheerios'. Too funny. He's such a picky eater, but he WILL eat these if nothing else when he's snack hungry. A well-supervised snack session of Pistachios gets him some much needed fats (he's a skinny boy) and some fun time with mommy or daddy cracking them open. They're not the cheapest snack, but they're so yummy we buy them anyway! Aldi and Sam's Club are our purchase locations of choice for the best prices.

Pistachios are about the only nuts that I don't eat. I don't recall ever eating pistachios. I am a nut lover though. When I occasionally eat a serving no bigger than one and a half ounces of nuts, I think of all the good fats, nutrients, and fiber I am getting that instead of the calories. Just this week I read an article in Woman's Day about how eating nuts can help ward off diabetes.

I love certain kinds of nuts, but pistachios are not one of them. Just don't like the taste-I prefer almonds, peanuts, and walnuts(freshly shelled). @Shannon: by slowing down you're also absorbing more nutrients, including fats. Getting the amount necessary for your individual meatabolism is ultinately what counts.

Does "The fat from pistachios is trapped inside the cell walls" apply to other nuts? I think that's what I'm getting from your 2nd to last sentence. Hm, what about an avocado?

@Rebecca - yes, that is what is implied in his research - that nuts with all that fiber are trapping some of the fat so we don't digest it. I doubt that is true of a fruit like avocado - so sad :(

Here's a good article on how chewing affects nutrition:…

A helpful quote from the article:

...chewing each bite of food more times can actually help with weight loss. Chewing more means you eat a lot more slowly and this gives the hormones that signal satiation, or fullness, a chance to reach your brain before you’ve polished off the entire contents of the buffet.

Studies have found that taking smaller bites and chewing them longer can decrease your food intake at a meal by as much as one-third. Obviously, this more than compensates for a couple of extra calories that all that chewing might release.

I love Pistachios! They are so yummy!! I think having to emancipate them from their shells make them a more mindful snack

I remembered this article this past weekend when I failed to plan and ended up needing a "7-11 snack"..... of all the packaged nuts, the still-in-shell pistachios were the best option. And OH were they yummy.... best of all, they kept me fuller longer than I expected. I think I may just buy some next time I'm at Sam's or Costco and package my own for snacktime at work!

I don't know what I'd do without pistachios. They are simply the best nut, and the best snack for that matter

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